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There’s no baseball in sight

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Cam Lewis
11 months ago
It’s a lovely day in Toronto right now.
The temperature reads two degrees celsius, but after a long, dark, cold winter, a day like this with the sun out, a calm breeze, and the scent of melting snow feels like paradise.
A perfect thing to go along with an early spring day such as this one would be a baseball game.
The Blue Jays are supposed to be playing the Minnesota Twins in Grapefruit League play in Fort Myers. That won’t be happening because spring training has been canceled for the foreseeable future. The same goes for Opening Day on March 31 and the first six games of the regular season.
Major League Baseball played the ultimate tease over the last couple of days.
On Monday night, after weeks of not a hell of a lot when it came to Collective Bargaining Agreement talks, reports started to come out that the League and the Players’ Association were inching closer to a deal. Things were going so well that Monday’s Doomsday Deadline that would see regular-season games get canceled got pushed back to Tuesday evening.
Optimism! Hope Spring Eternal! Nope.
This has been Major League Baseball’s plan all along. They did sweet fuck all back in December when the lockout began, the offers over the course of January and February have been nowhere near reasonable, and now they’re going to be the beneficiaries of a narrative in which the players are at fault for not signing a deal ahead of some arbitrary deadline that the league themselves set.
What’s next? Well, that couple of days full of meaningful progress in Jupiter, Florida was largely all for show, and we have no idea when the two sides will meet again. In the meantime, the objective of the owners will be to get the fans on their side, painting the players as greedy for wanting to be compensated a fair amount for the revenue that they generate.
It’s not at all difficult to see that the negotiations and offers thus far from the side of Major League Baseball haven’t been made in good faith. Ross Stripling, the Blue Jays’ MLBPA representative, gave a pretty damning account of how the talks over the past few days went…
“It got to be like 12:30 and the fine print of their CBT proposal was stuff we had never seen before,” Stripling said. “They were trying to sneak things through us, it was like they think we’re dumb baseball players and we get sleepy after midnight or something. It’s like that stupid football quote, they are who we thought they were. They did exactly what we thought they would do. They pushed us to a deadline that they imposed, and then they tried to sneak some shit past us at that deadline and we were ready for it. We’ve been ready for five years. And then they tried to flip it on us today in PR, saying that we’ve changed our tone and tried to make it look like it was our fault. That never happened.”
I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of the negotiations (an excellent thread on that can be read here) because the real point of the story is that we’re most certainly headed for an extended period of time without baseball. The league is prepared to lose games, perhaps months of them, in order to grind the players into paste and bust what’s likely the strongest and most unified union they’ve had in decades, and the players are ready to play ball.
This Tweet from Anthony Rizzo paints the picture of what’s ahead…
I have little doubts that the owners are most certainly fine with wiping out the schedule in April and May, those cool spring days in which fans aren’t lining up to purchase tickets and beer and the league is competing with the NHL and NBA playoffs for air time. The question is how far they’ll go and how much of a lost regular season can simply be compensated for by adding another round to the post-season and selling the streaming rights to Facebook or Amazon.
It’s disheartening to watch this all unfold, but, really, it isn’t at all surprising. How does something sentimental survive in a system entirely dedicated to the bottom line, to extracting surplus value at each and every turn?

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